By Brendan O’Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Police in Milwaukee on Thursday identified the five brewery employees shot and killed by a co-worker who later took his own life in the latest spasm of gun violence plaguing U.S. workplaces and schools.
The motive for the carnage was unclear a day after the shooting at the landmark Molson Coors Beverage Co complex shook Wisconsin’s largest city.
“Reasons for this are still under investigation,” Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said.
The victims were identified by police as Jesus Valle Jr., 33, Gennady Levshetz, 61, Trevor Wetselaar, 33, Dana Walk, 57, and Dale Hudson, 50.
“Today, 18,000 Molson Coors employees are grieving,” Gavin Hattersley, the chief executive officer of Molson Coors, told a news conference.
The victims “were husbands, they were fathers and they were friends,” Hattersley said. “They were part of the fabric of our company and our community and we will miss them terribly.”
Police identified the shooter as Anthony Ferrill, 51, an employee of the brewery, who was believed to have acted alone.
Earlier on Thursday, police investigators were seen entering and leaving a ranch house on Milwaukee’s northwest side believed to be owned by Ferrill.
The suspect’s neighbor, Erna Roenspies, 82, cried as she stood at her front door, looking at the police tape around Ferrill’s home.
“He was like a son to me,” Roenspies said as she wiped her eyes. “I don’t know what triggered this. Let’s pray for everyone.”
Ferrill, who worked as an electrician at the brewery, lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. Roenspies said Ferrill was a good husband and father of three children and helped his neighbor by doing odd jobs and repairs.
“He would come over and fix anything,” Roenspies said. “This is unreal.”
“This is a tragic day for our city, this is a tragic day for our state,” Mayor Tom Barrett said on Wednesday evening outside the facility, known to locals as the old Miller brewery.
Some 1,400 employees work at the Molson Coors campus, which consists of about 20 buildings. Most were forced to remain holed up inside for several hours on Wednesday as police methodically swept the facilities to secure the property.
Police who stormed the building where the shooting unfolded found the assailant dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Morales told reporters on Wednesday.
The bodies of his five victims were found in the same building. It was unclear whether they and the gunman knew one another.
No one else was injured in the violence, which was confined to the brewing complex, west of the downtown area, and did not involve members of the general public, Morales said.
The complex, usually bustling with activity, was mostly deserted on Thursday morning, with few cars in the parking lots and a smattering of employees arriving at work.
There were 417 mass shootings in the United States last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the highest annual number since the nonprofit research group started keeping a tally in 2013. GVA defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people, excluding the perpetrator, are shot.
The shooting in Wisconsin, a swing state in the presidential election, may reignite a debate about gun control as the campaign accelerates. Milwaukee will host the Democratic National Convention in July to nominate a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)